UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
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There are lots of things we do every day that include fire - cooking dinner or lighting a fireplace or candle. These things may seem common, but fire is complex and can be hard to control. Travel under the microscope and learn what a fire needs to ignite, how to react if there is a fire, and what you can do to stop a fire before it starts.
Ingredients for a Fire:
HEAT from sunlight, matches, a spark or friction.
OXYGEN is part of air, which allows flames to ignite. You breathe it in everyday. Plants breath it out. You can't see it and it doesn't have a color.
FUEL which is the actual "thing" that catches on fire. Fuel can be lots of different things, like wood, gas, paper, or grease.
The amount of heat, oxygen, and fuel required to start a fire varies and change depending on the situation. But as soon as one of the three is removed (heat, oxygen or fuel), the fire will burn out. A fire can't continue burning unless it has all three ingredients.
You may think of fire as bright flames, but house fires are actually dark. Fires start bright but create black smoke, causing total darkness.
The black smoke might make you think the fire has cooled down. But don't let colors trick you! You might not see the flames, but they are there, hiding underneath the black smoke. Smoke will make your eyes water and cause you to cough. In fact, the smoke can be just as dangerous as the fire.
Fires can do more than burn you. Did you know that fire breathes in oxygen and breathes out carbon dioxide? Fires can take all the oxygen in the room, leaving none for you to breathe! Many people die from breathing in the carbon dioxide made by the fire before the flames get close to them. To outsmart smoke from a fire, stay down on the ground and cover your mouth.
The temperature of a flame can get super hot in a flash. If you are close to the floor, a flame can feel like 100 degrees. But because heat rises, when you are standing, it can feel like 600 degrees. That is a hot summer day multiplied six times! That's why it is best to stay low to the ground where it is cooler and less smoky.
Gases produced by a fire are odorless, colorless, and can even make you sleepy. That is why it is important to have a fire alarm in your house. It can sense a fire, even if you can't!
Did You Know?
- It only takes 30 seconds for a small flame to spread into a major fire.
- Fires and burns are the leading cause of home injury deaths among children ages 1 to 14.
- In 2003, in our country there were about 388,500 fires in houses, apartment buildings, and office buildings.
- About 44 percent of people in the United States thought 6 minutes would be enough time to escape a fire. But, usually you have to make your escape in way less time than that. Have two possible escape routes so you can get out quickly.
- Children who play with fire started about 13,900 fires in 2002. These fires killed 210 people and hurt more than 1,250. Plus, they caused nearly $350 million in damage!
- Grease fire—Never use water to put out a grease fire because the flames will get even BIGGER and spread even FASTER! In case of a grease fire, cover the flames with the pan cover or pan. Turn the heat source off and let the pot sit and cool.
- Oven fire—If there is any oven fire, turn the oven power off, don't open the oven door and call for help ASAP!
- Microwave fire—Keep the door shut and turn the microwave power off. Call for help.
- Clothing fire—If your clothes catch on fire, STOP what you are doing, DROP to the floor, and ROLL all around. Easy enough, huh?
- Try to stay calm, cool, and collected. That way, you can think clearly and quickly.
- Know the emergency plan. Have a spot to meet your family after everyone has escaped and memorize any emergency telephone numbers.
- Leave your spanking new outfit or your baseball collection behind! Eventually, with the help of your family and friends, all that good stuff can be replaced. And, no worries, your pet will find its way out or be rescued by a firefighter.
- If you are at home, and you can smell or feel a fire, get close to the ground. Crawl on your hands and knees and follow one of the practiced escape routes. What happens if you need to go through a closed door but don't know if there are flames on the other side? Use the back of your hand to test the temperature of the door handle. Check out the side and bottom of the door for heat or smoke. Move ahead with caution. Use one of the other escape routes if you can't open the door safely.
Sometimes curiosity can get the best of you. When it comes to fire, there is not much to be curious about. Fire is a tool and not a game or toy. Fires are mysterious because they can start in such crazy ways. Know what's up before you try to find out on your own...
- Keep your styling jeans or basketball hat off the tops of lampshades. Heat rises, and if the heat from a light bulb can't escape, items blocking the light's exit area will get really hot. Your jeans or hat will absorb the heat and energy the light bulb is giving off. Energy will start moving faster and faster, and soon flames will develop.
- Matches, lighters, and candles can be dangerous if you do not know how to use them correctly. Ask a parent or adult if you have permission to light a candle. In 2001, 18,000 house fires were started from a single candle.
- The mixer, blender, and toaster oven might not be ON, but if it is still plugged in, the power circuits could go into overload or a fuse could short, causing sparks! Make an extra effort to unplug what you are not using.
- Finally, when you leave a room, make sure to turn off the tunes or TV. If something is running too long it can overheat becoming the HEAT source. The FUEL is the power cord, radio, TV--the object or thing--and, you guessed it, OXYGEN is in the air. All of the perfect ingredients for a fire!
- Division of Population Health/School Health Branch
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, Northeast, Mailstop K-27
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO